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South African Journal of Childhood Education

On-line version ISSN 2223-7682
Print version ISSN 2223-7674


BEZUIDENHOUT, Hanrie S.. Associations between early numeracy and mathematics-specific vocabulary. SAJCE [online]. 2022, vol.12, n.1, pp.1-9. ISSN 2223-7682.

BACKGROUND: Early numeracy development is supported by linguistic features such as mathematics-specific vocabulary. Researchers have established a link between the amount and quality of children's exposure to mathematics-specific vocabulary and their numeracy learning. Studies have also shown that children from low socio-economic status are less exposed to mathematics-specific vocabulary and also tend to underperform on mathematics assessments. South African children consistently perform poorly on local and international mathematics assessments. AIM: To describe associations between numeracy and mathematics-specific vocabulary of the sample who participated in the study. SETTING: Participants in this study are from Quintile 1 schools and receive social grants from the South African government. METHOD: 133 Grade 1 and 2 children completed assessments for (1) early numeracy (MARKO-D SA), (2) mathematics-specific vocabulary (MMLT) and (3) early reading (EGRA). Correlation analyses were conducted to investigate associations between variables and developmental continuity of number concept development and reading skills were described. RESULTS: An association between numeracy and mathematics-specific vocabulary was found. The data confirm that number concepts and reading skills develop hierarchically. Although English-speaking children performed better on the numeracy assessment, isiZulu and Sesotho speakers performed better on the reading test. CONCLUSION: Mathematics-specific vocabulary is a key tool for early number concept development, also in isiZulu and Sesotho. Teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) should include how number concept development intersects with mathematics-specific vocabulary. Explicit teaching of mathematics-specific vocabulary should be included in the Foundation Phase curriculum.

Keywords : early numeracy; mathematics-specific vocabulary; early reading; foundation phase; pedagogical content knowledge; social grants; hierarchical number concept development.

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